2016 Update and HubPro Premium

Hi Hubbers,

2016 was a transformative year for HubPages.  We went from one site to a network of over two dozen unique properties.  For us, it was an all-in year.   The net result has been very successful.

As I look back at the time from 2011 to where we are today, I can see many of the things we got right as well as the things we tried that didn’t turn out as fruitful as we hoped.  Here are a few of the important things we got right:

  • We increased the standards for writing on HubPages, which many from the community demanded.
  • We built robust systems to clamp down on spam and poorly written content.
  • We introduced innovative services like HubPro and hired teams of editors and curators to improve content.
  • We created topical sites.

I believe these initiatives have played a significant role in the success of 2016, but they have also reshaped our community.  It’s a smaller, but in many ways stronger collection of people that have created incredible articles with tons of depth. Many of the most successful Hubbers are once again earning hundreds every payout and for a small number, they are earning thousands. Our hope for the future is that folks see the benefits of our community and new members that are passionate on topics from tactical flashlights to hand raising cockatiels are attracted to the HubPages Network as well.

In the next month, we will remove the option of opting-out of HubPro Premium.  Editing is a significant piece of the quality improvement process, and we believe it’s in the best interest of our community, readers, and our future to have one set of options with the intent of creating the best content we can together.  

Today, many of the most influential communities have forms of editing.  I looked around at various successful sites, and I see a strong sense of purpose.  The best communities are made from great people with interesting, useful ideas and information that they share generously.  Like us, StackExchange is one of those communities.  

StackExchange is a large diverse community built around QnA.  I’ve admired them for years.  Many of their pages are deep with rich, thick answers.  They provide fantastic content that harnesses the talents of their community to create a great reader experience.  Many of their most popular QnAs are improved regularly via editing.  

I believe editing is a critical part of a healthy community that provides an enhanced reading experience and ensures the quality of our network for years to come.  While I’m not ready to announce community editing—maybe someday, I am happy to announce that we will be investing more in editing in 2017!

Here is to a fantastic 2017.

Best,

Paul

Does this mean my articles may be edited when the change goes into effect even if I previously opted out?

Yes. All articles, both old and new, will be eligible for every type of edit when this change is made.

Will Editors be able to edit all of my content?

Currently, Premium Editing is the only type of editing we offer the option to opt out of, which means all articles on HubPages are already eligible for Basic Edits (quick spelling and grammar fixes) and Snip Edits (removal of problematic elements like links and products). All of your content will be eligible to be Premium Edited as well when this change is implemented, but we encourage writers to think of Premium Editing as a collaborative process. If selected for a Premium Edit, you will receive advance notice of any edits that will be made and have the ability to communicate directly with your Editor.

I still don’t want my content edited or changed whatsoever. What should I do?

If you are firmly against having your work professionally edited, HubPages is likely no longer the best home for that content. We recommend removing your articles and republishing on a website or blog you own. However, our Editors are highly-qualified, consummate professionals. They have been successfully editing articles on HubPages for over two years. We sincerely hope you will give the editing process a chance before saying goodbye to the HubPages community.

We know this is a big departure from the level of autonomy we’ve offered when we launched in 2006 (which is why we want to give you plenty of time to think things through before we remove the opt out), but it is increasingly clear to us that the best way to provide a phenomenal experience both for readers and writers is to incorporate the kind of professional editing typical of most high-quality magazines and community websites going forward. We are also delighted and deeply appreciative that so many of you are on board and have had great experiences with editing. Thanks and keep up the great writing!

Like Old Times, Something Old is New Again

For the last several years, we have all worked really hard to improve HubPages.  Many of you have been loyal community members for years—you have seen the many ups and downs.  We don’t always get it perfect, but the commitment to our mission remains:  to build the best place on the internet to discover and create original, in-depth, useful, media-rich pages on topics you are passionate about.

The lifeblood of this site is the community.  Without all of you, it wouldn’t be possible.  When Panda kicked our butts in February 2011, we looked for ways to escape the crushing blow.  As we mined the search results, we could see a pattern that subdomains were not treated the same as the main domain.  We moved really quickly and converted the entire site to subdomains.  At the same time we tightened our publishing rules, built out a moderation team and worked really hard with all of you to create a high-quality site.  We hoped that each author would stand on their own merits with Google.  After many Google updates we saw some subdomains go up and other go down.  We believed this was working.  However, the environment we strive to be great in moves very quickly and we believe that things are different today.

Along our path to improve, we wanted to understand how the quality of our site related to other sites that were doing well.  We created a system to measure the quality of our pages from two dimensions.  One is done by a panel of people that rate articles on our scale and the other simply asks visitors how good is the page they are reading.  Initially, our data showed that our competitors that were doing well were better than we were.  So we went to work to catch up and surpass them.  

We have been able to achieve steady improvements in site quality that over time has added up to a significant improvement from where we were in February 2011.  One of the major changes we made was to partner with Hubbers with the addition of HubPro.  HubPro offers everything from professional editing to extensive fact checking.  This program focused on the highest traffic Hubs.  We have edited nearly 40% of views from search visitors.  With the creation of HubPro HubPages changed significantly.  

There are lots of places to publish online for folks that want to have their own site.  It’s cheap, easy and quick to get going, but as far as I know there is only one site that not only shares a bit of revenue with their community, but also invests substantially in the content the community creates to help achieve a professional production value for readers to enjoy.  

I believe our site is surpassing our competitors in quality and we will continue to race forward.  We’ve created a new type of community site that has potential to be an enormous asset to the world.  We hope Hubbers, readers and Google recognize the progress.  

Today, HubPages is announcing a significant change that will seem like old times.  

We will be redirecting (301) the entire site back to the HubPages domain as a signal of our unification, services, and policies.  A single site to serve Hubbers and readers one great Hub at a time.

This will achieve a few things in the short term.  First, as Hubs get reindexed on their new home they will get a URL that overall looks cleaner, and that is easier for users to know more about the content they’re about to read.  This is particularly true on mobile.  The new URL structure is hubpages.com/category/article.  Each article is categorized under their main topic one directory deep.  QnA and forums will also get new homes under their main category.  This hierarchy will help organize the site into logical content themes.

Google should display URLs like this on desktop for a Hub with this URL (http://hubpages.com/animals/Bee-Stings-on-the-Eye)

  • hubpages.com › … › Farm Animals & Livestock › Bees & Beekeeping

and like this on mobile

  • hubpages.com › animals › Bee-Stings-on-the-Eye

Second, there is a trade-off here with Google Search Console.  With subdomains, we only get a limited view of our data, but by combining it into one site, we will have a better way to see data and issues across all content.  However, Hubbers will no longer see data about their content consolidated in GSC, but they can add specific URLs if they choose.  We will be updating documentation on GSC shortly.

We have done some small scale tests so far.  In our initial test, we saw some pages get removed from the results and stop ranking for a few days to about a week.  After about a week, they returned to their previous rankings and traffic levels.  We know it can be disconcerting to see traffic changes, please be patient and give the site time to get reindexed.  If a URL disappears for a few days, this is a normal behavior we have seen get resolved with time.  Most URLs move over very smoothly.

Today, we are going to move the entire autos category including QnA and forums.  We will be evaluating progress and planning to move the rest of the site shortly.

Please report any bugs or issues in the forums.  We will be watching.

Happy Hubbing,

Paul

Squidoo and HubPages

I have some very exciting news to announce today. HubPages is acquiring key content from Squidoo, creating the world’s largest site of its kind.

Squidoo and HubPages have been cousins over the years. We shared the same desire to provide a platform for individuals to share their knowledge and passions with the world.

We want to thank Seth, Corey, Gil and the rest of the Squidoo team that  have worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to innovate, adapt, and grow a wonderful community of incredible Lensmasters that have generated millions of lenses and billions of visits. I’ve been a big fan of Squidoo, their mission, their Lensmasters, and their team for many years.

By combining HubPages with the best of Squidoo, we will be able to invest more in our site and community, and make HubPages a place that Hubbers and Lensmasters deserve for years to come.

We have been working together with the Squidoo team to make this transition as smooth as possible. We plan to complete the migration by October 1st. In the meantime, we put together a FAQ on the content acquisition and migration that we plan to update regularly. In addition, there will be a new forum dedicated to Squidoo transition issues, along with more announcements in the near future.

Please welcome the Lensmasters–our new Hubbers–to our community!

Introducing: The HubPro Beta

Over the last three years, we have worked tirelessly as a community to improve the reader experience on HubPages and raise our standards of quality. Hubbers have worked to better their Hubs, and we have implemented programs and features like the Quality Assessment Process, Boot Camp, Style Tips, and the Apprenticeship Program. We can see from quality metrics that your efforts and these programs are making a difference in reader satisfaction. But—we can still do more!

We measure reader satisfaction by asking random search visitors: “How good is this article?”. They rate their experience on a 1-10 scale and we aggregate that data over time.

We measure reader satisfaction by asking random search visitors: “How good is this article?”. They rate their experience on a 1-10 scale and we aggregate that data over time.

The next step in our quest to satisfy readers is a new professional (and free!) editing service that we are calling HubPro! In April, we piloted a version of this service and worked with a small number of Hubbers to learn more about how we could successfully bring editing to HubPages. In addition to collecting invaluable feedback from our pilot testers, we’ve been fine tuning the tools and process, and we are so excited to open up HubPro to more members of the community. We have hired an extremely talented team of editors, trained specifically for HubPages, that will partner with you to take your Hubs to the next level.

Why are we Editing Hubs?

We want HubPages to be the premier place for readers to find information on a variety of topics. Plus, most professional writers benefit from editors, and we want to extend this service to the writers on HubPages. Additionally, many Hubbers have asked for an editing feature, and this is our first step.

The Importance of Editing Hubs

In order to compete and succeed in the current competitive landscape, most Hubs need improvements. Even the most successful Hubs can benefit from revisions, and we recognize that not all Hubbers have the time to frequently edit. There is a common misconception: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This does not apply to online content and is risky advice. In fact, Hubs that are receiving traffic are the ones that should be improved and updated more frequently to maintain their traffic. Traffic will fluctuate whether Hubs are edited or not, but we strongly believe that improving and updating Hubs will have a positive effect on reader satisfaction, which is highly correlated to the amount of traffic a Hub receives.

What did we Learn From the Pilot?

Edited Hubs in the pilot program have had a positive effect on reader satisfaction and significant increases in traffic—the median edited Hub has seen search traffic grow around 17%! In the short run there are clear gains, but more importantly, we are investing for the long term to boost the quality of Hubs, improve the credibility of our brand, and ensure the health of the site.

How HubPro Will Work

Ultimately, we want to provide the best experience for as many readers as possible, and starting with Hubs that receive the highest traffic is a logical first step in achieving this goal. In the beta, our editors will only be editing a small percentage of Hubs, but this is just the beginning. We have big plans for editing in the future— stay tuned!

HubPages Editors will:

  • Proofread for spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Update the information in Hubs
  • Improve layout and structure
  • Add supplementary capsules
  • Obtain high-quality media assets (illustrations)
  • Remove unrelated links and products
  • Fact check
  • Communicate with Hubbers about the changes made to their Hubs
  • Provide a document with the before and after changes highlighted

If you are one of the lucky few Hubbers selected to participate in the HubPro beta, you will receive an email with more information. Our hope is that all Hubbers will participate in the program, however, if you would like to opt out, go to My Account > Profile. If you choose to opt out, you cannot opt back in to the program for 60 days. We will begin editing Hubs in one week, and we will be publishing a FAQ soon with more detailed information.

Editing Hubs is a huge strategic move for HubPages, blending user-generated content with professional editing services. Thank you for being a part of this monumental effort!

UPDATE (8.4.2014): We have published a FAQ and it is available here.

Update on Editor’s Choice Hubs

I wanted to provide an update on Editor’s Choice Hubs.  We started the program to recognize great Hubs.  Over the last nine months we have selected almost 20,000 EC Hubs and a handful are getting added every day.  We’ve had lots of great comments that Hubbers love the recognition, but the data hounds in the community say: that’s great, but do they get more traffic?

When a EC Hub is selected it gets moved from the author’s subdomain to the main HubPages.com domain.  When an older Hub is moved it can be a bit of a wild ride.  Sometimes Hubs jump way up and other times they come down.  Overall, they’re slightly up (~2%).

Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to see several sites (outside of HubPages) that have done major movements like this and in some cases it has taken two years for a significant traffic shift after creating clusters of high quality content.  So, I think there is still a chance that we will see a major traffic move, and it appears that there is some slight traffic benefit in the short term on average.

I hope Hubbers stay with the program and hang in there with us for the long haul.  We are working on several improvements to the site.  I’m very optimistic about the future of HubPages.  Stay tuned Hubbers.

Mobile Readership is Growing!

Shift to mobileLast week, our traffic was just a hair more on desktop than mobile. I suspect in the coming weeks we will permanently shift to smartphones as the dominant platform for readers on HubPages. We’ve invested in our mobile design and we will have to do more to improve it.

I strongly recommend laying out Hubs with the mobile reader in mind. The best practice for this is to use all full width capsules. In the Hubtool, there is a mobile preview button as well. Be sure to preview your Hubs before publishing if you have any floated capsules.

A year ago our traffic was 32% mobile. We are now 44% mobile. At this pace, in the next six months, our traffic will be 50% mobile (not including tablets). The shift is on!

Introducing the New Mobile Hub

IMG_1733

I’m super excited to announce an all new mobile Hub architecture and design for smartphones.  We’ve all read and heard about the switch to mobile and our traffic numbers indicate it’s happening quickly.    Over the last 30 days we’ve had over 14 million visits from smartphones.  A year ago in the exact same time period, we had 9 million.  By this time next year, I estimate that 50% of our traffic will be to smartphones, 15% to tablets, and 35% to desktop.  This is a huge shift that demands we focus on our mobile experience.  We aim to bring to you a service where you don’t have to worry about what screen a reader is using, so you can concentrate on your Hubs.

I’m not going to go into the details of responsive design for mobile, but I will tell you the tangible benefits you will see on HubPages.

  • Hubbers are the center of HubPages.  The new design reflects an author-centric design where topically related content by that author is easily accessible.

IMG_1730

  • The smartphone readability is enhanced with all mobile Hubs being single column in portrait view (vertical).  Simply put, when capsules were placed side-by-side, the text lines would often only fit two words.  This made reading mobile Hubs difficult.  Now, the full-width line lengths are much easier to read.
  • In the HubTool, there is now a mobile preview button where you can see how your Hub looks before publishing.
  • Mobile Hubs should earn more.  There are still three ads on the new layout, but responsive design now lets us use standard ads and a permission to anchor an ad at the top of the Hub.  We will do more mobile ad optimization, but we are confident that this will be a significant lift to mobile revenues.

What about the rest of the site for smartphones?

While we focused on the Hub first, many of the pages have been redone, e.g.,  signing in to My Account pages are now designed for smartphones.    Our product development style is iterative.  That means we move fast.  With such a major change, there are bugs to find and fix.  We’ve fixed many in limited testing in the office, but we are hoping our world-class community will find and report them in the Report a Problem Tech Forum.

A couple of things we didn’t do:

  • The data shows that there are very few mobile searches, and we wanted to make the new Hub design available.  We still think mobile search is important, but we want to improve it for the entire site.  A new search function is in the planning stages that will work for mobile and desktop.
  • We want a desktop design that is closely related to the new mobile design.  We are focusing on smartphones first, but we will bring the desktop and tablets along as well.

This is a big effort and I want to thank the Team and the Community for the amazing teamwork and input.

 

Update to the Quality Assessment Process: Improving the quality of ALL Hubs!

As you may recall, in late March we raised the quality bar for all newly-published and edited Hubs. This heightened bar has not been applied to older Hubs that were published before the QAP. Beginning this week (and continuing gradually over the next few months), older Hubs will be subject to our quality thresholds.

What does this mean? All Hubs on HubPages, new and old, will be assessed in accordance to the same high standards. But don’t fret, we all have Hubs written in our first days on HubPages that aren’t of the same quality as our Hubs of late. Hubs that are no longer Featured because of quality reasons can be updated, improved, and reassessed. Hopefully you see this as an opportunity to improve those older Hubs in need of a good spring cleaning!

There will be some Hubs that appear decent that will not pass the QAP and some Hubs people feel shouldn’t pass that will.  These Hubs are on the border.  To ensure Hubs pass, it’s a good idea to shoot for above an 8+ on our rating scale.  Hubs rated in this range  are the type our community is proud to have Featured and are rated well beyond passing.

You may also want to revisit two of our most helpful Learning Center guides on the subject of quality – Elements of a Stellar Hub and How To Improve the Quality of a Hub – to get an idea of what standing your Hubs are currently in and how you might go about improving them.

Alongside this update, we’re releasing a couple of new features with regards to alerts on Featured and non-Featured Hubs:

  • Two new icons in My Account > Statistics showing which Hubs are de-Featured for getting low quality (orange icon) ratings and which are de-Featured for low engagement (blue icon)

  • Email alerts when Hubs lose Featured status for quality reasons

These changes are part of our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of content on HubPages and ensure that original, long-form, media-rich Hubs see the success and attention they deserve!

Upcoming AdSense Changes to Custom Formatted Ads

New Arrow on AdSense Ads

Last week we got a bit of news that Google AdSense has changed the way its auctions work.  This change was rolled out to standard units (in December, we believe). Most folks didn’t notice that lower revenue per click was made up with higher click-through rates because AdSense launched a formatting change that included arrows in the ad format at the same time.

While AdSense hopes this will be good for the long-term health of advertising-supported businesses, it’s going to mean a decrease in the revenue per click that we earn.  Like all of you, we are concerned about revenue.

We have been optimizing the page and running tests to see how we can increase revenues to make up for the loss we will experience.  We’ve been told to expect the change the week of March 11th.  The estimated revenue hit is 10 to 13% of the custom-formatted revenue we earn based on January earnings.  We have made several tweaks to the custom ads we display on Hubs in February (custom ads are the units  you see within the content area of a Hub), so it may turn out to be more than that.  I think the best case scenario would be that we see a total hit in the 5% range (the worst case scenario would be a hit in the 10 to 15% range).  We won’t really know what the impact will be until the pricing changes go through.

When AdSense shared the news with us, they also gave us a new product to try called CSI units.

Custom formatted ad

These units can be sized to non-standard sizes like the custom 520X200 unit we have below Hubs.  The main difference is we can’t blend the fonts as well or have as much control on the layout, but the new units add the little graphic arrows that seems to help the click-through rate.  Our plan is to run the CSI units side by side with the custom ads and see which one performs better.  After a few weeks, we will switch to the units that perform best.

In short, we are going to see a drop in revenue per click and we have a few weeks to see if we can offset the loss with tweaks to our ad layout. Most of the tests are now running on Hubs for the web version of Hubs (not mobile versions).

We are highly dependent on custom ads for mobile, and while there are fewer options available for that format, we are on the beta list for a new type of unit called an adhesive unit that anchors to the bottom of the page which we hope to test out soon.

We will keep you posted as we learn more.

Introducing Idle Hubs

For quite some time, Hubbers have requested that we boost HubPages’ reputation by improving the site’s overall quality. Hubbers have also been asking for advice on when to update and delete old Hubs.  Today we are beginning a series of updates that we hope will address both requests.

Sometimes a couple of under-performing Hubs can hurt the reputation of your entire online portfolio in the eyes of search engines. As part of our efforts to improve everyone’s reputation (and traffic), beginning Wednesday, we will put your least successful Hubs on Idle. An Idle Hub is available from your profile page and to your followers, but it isn’t indexed by search engines.

Beginning today, you will able to see Idle Hubs that we identified by visiting My Account > Hubs > Stats.  A Hub becomes Idle when it is out of date, needs some editing, or just hasn’t had much interest lately.  We encourage you to update it with fresh information, text, and media. If, after being updated, a Hub still fails to perform well, rest assured that you can leave it alone without it putting the rest of your Hubs at risk. For the next 48 hours, these statuses are informational only.  On Wednesday afternoon, they will be operational.

Showing which Hubs need work (or just aren’t working anymore) helps remind us all to regularly edit our portfolio of Hubs, as keeping content up to date and carefully culled is increasingly important. Under-performing Hubs that will be affected by this update are not seeing much success via search, Topic pages, or Hubs as it is, so you should see very little change in traffic in the short run and hopefully enjoy a boost in readership over the long run.

This update is just the first version of many to come. Figuring out how to best protect Hubbers’ reputations and  improve the overall quality of Hubs will aid their chances of success.  We are confident that this first step is a very positive one! We hope you take this as a convenient opportunity to do some spring cleaning amongst your Hubs – and that you enjoy more traffic as a result.

For more information, please see the learning center entry and to give feedback and report issues, please see our forum thread.

A huge thank you to the awesome community of Hubbers that offered their feedback and helped shape this feature along the way.